GAC Motor and Toyota have recently unveiled a new type of engine that uses an unconventional type of fuel. Specifically, the engine uses ammonia, and it’s an intriguing engine that further continues to push the boundaries of the internal combustion engine (ICE) and help reduce its carbon dioxide woes.
In fact, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that was presented at GAC’s annual technology presentation last June 30, is said to emit 90 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than the traditional gasoline engine. The engine itself produces 161 horsepower, which is a good number for a 2.0-liter without any form of turbocharging.
GAC Motor is particularly proud to highlight that in creating this engine, they were able to overcome several technical hurdles, such as excess nitrogen emissions and increased combustion pressure compared to gasoline engines. The company, however, did not say if they have intentions to bring the engine to mass production.
“We’ve overcome the pain point of ammonia being difficult to burn quickly and put the fuel to use in the passenger car industry,” said Qi Hongzhong, an engineer at the GAC R&D center in Guangzhou, China. “Its value to society and for commercial uses are worth anticipating.”
And yes, that is the challenge with using ammonia as a fuel source. Traditionally, ammonia-powered engines have been known to emit a lot of nitrogen into the atmosphere, which practically offsets any carbon-reducing benefits the engine had. Another hurdle that ammonia has is that the fuel has only half the energy density of gasoline, according to Autocar.
This isn’t the first time that ammonia has been explored as an alternative fuel source. In fact, it’s already been experimented in engines for trucks, buses, and ships. This is, however, the first time it is being used for passenger vehicle applications. Apart from experimentations in heavy-duty vehicles, ammonia is mainly used as a fertilizer, pesticide, and in the manufacturing of plastics.